Thursday, August 28, 2008

Independence Challenge - Week 17

Our new kitchen cabinet, sanded, scrubbed, and set at the back of the kitchen table. Note ghastly brown-patterned paneling on the walls. I put the egg cartons and berry baskets on top - we recycle them to our favorite truck farming family. Finally have a safe place for my hobnail cake plate up there. The photo is dark, even with camera flash and all the lights on- but take my word for it, it looks great in person. DD11 was a bit more critical: "That just makes you and all your jars look old."
Planted: Kale and spinach in fish boxes. Beets and carrots direct sown in ground. Another round of peas.

Harvested: A bunch more gourds from that prolific volunteer vine. Some cute chocolate-colored peppers. Another large Brandywine tomato. Black-eyed peas drying in pods on the back porch. I am not going to get very many of them from a little 6' row, but they were very easy to start and grow, so I will plant more in a bigger space. The cabbages and broccoli are both forming heads now - the first I ever grew. I hope no one messes with the pumpkin growing on the ledge outside the back fence. It has the first hint of orange.

Preserved: Decanted the yarrow oil I made 6 weeks ago. I have about 12 oz. of yarrow-infused oil now. I am supposed to pick up a lump of beeswax at the farmer's market this weekend, so I can try making my first salve. It smells pleasantly herbal.

Cooked: DD15 invented a fried zucchini sandwich with tomatoes and basil. She breaded and shallow-fried zuke slices. Nothing else very new: rice pudding, PB cookies, curried chicken, pork stock. Got pork neck bones, chicken legs, and burgers on sale. Monday seems to be a good day at Weis - lots of reduced day-old bread and marked down meat close to expiration. Must keep that in mind if we get the freezer. I feel sad when I go there lately - an elderly woman was killed crossing the street in an unsafe manner, and I think of it every time I drive by. Stay in the crosswalks, people!

Stored: Bread flour. Too busy with other stuff to shop.

I found a heavy porcelain utility sink via Freecycle. A bit battered, but it will be perfect as an outdoor bin for potting soil and screened compost. If we need to do some laundry outdoors in the future, it will also work as a double wash tub that we can set up to drain into a bucket, or the garden. I found a metal strand to use as a base, and we installed the sink in what we hope is a convenient spot in her backyard, not far from the future location of a rain barrel. We have a pile of pavers to make place to stand in front of it.

Managed: We uncovered an old cabinet under a drop cloth at Mom's (photo at top). She thinks it might be something she salvaged from her father's workshop when her childhood home was sold. It will hold at lot of my jars of spices, beans, lentils. If it helps keep the table clear, I will then have room for baking and bread-making. I put the big jars of flour and sugar on the bottom shelf. Need to find more big jars of different kinds of flour - bread, pastry, all-purpose. The spelt and wheat flour is in the fridge. This also cleared counter space where the jars used to be - yay!

Reorganization continues - we recycled a large mass of old homeschooling paperwork. The basement is almost ready for storage. Now I have to go find some free 5-gallon buckets. I eventually want to use Gamma lids, but they are too pricey for right now. D11 went back to school, so I have been working with DD15 until her online school begins - we are reorganizing maniacs.

Reduced, Reused, Recycled:
Spotted a pile of pallets behind a hardware store with a "free" sign, and got a few for my cellar floor. If anyone else wants some, they are next to Leinbach's Hardware in Mt Penn.

The new kitchen cabinet covers a heavily-used wall outlet, so I ran a multi-outlet surge protector from it. That will give us a switch to turn off all the
energy-vampire rechargers.

Local/Family: Our neighborhood playground is being renovated. No idea what the plan looks like, or where to view it, or how the design was developed. DD11 has been using the playground for 5 years. I am sure she had some ideas, but no kids seem to have been asked for input. The project was awarded to Bertolet Construction (Wernersville) for $318,864 in local, state, and federal funds. The Recreation Department webpage says it will be done by the end of October - construction fence was up Thursday. I hope we at least get some benches or picnic tables, so we can have neighborhood meetings.

Talked to Mom about coming to stay at our house this winter, from the end of December to the end of March. It would save her a heating season, and we could still work on her house, without us worrying if she is warm and safe. It will be a good test of how well the five of us would do together. It will require some work here, to make room. I have asked the landlord to insulate the attic, to start, so we can move the girls up there.

I am concerned that "the Depression" has already come to Reading. This week we were reported to have the highest poverty rate of cities in the state. According to the Census Bureau, "
Almost 35 percent of the city's population lives below the poverty level, which was an annual household income of $21,203 for a family of four in 2007." More than a third of the city! Almost every kid qualifies for free lunches. My blue-collar neighbors report that manufacturing jobs paying $8-10/hour are hard to find, and better jobs at $12-18 almost impossible.

Learned: The "Adapting in Place" class is back in swing, now talking about security, death, sex, and money. There was homework over the quiet week, but many people were overwhelmed by the assignment to make a short, medium, and long-range plan for well, everything. I will work on that after the course is over.

Researching root cellaring, to see what I might try to keep in the cellar this winter. Lots of apples, root vegetables, squash, potatoes, and cabbages will be available in the markets soon. My cellar is very damp - the sump pump runs when it rains hard. I thought that would make it a bad storage cellar., but my reading tells me that the humidity is actually good, as long as the cellar is under 40F, as close to freezing as possible. Since we no longer use the oil furnace or the clothes dryer, most of the cellar should be pretty cold.

We are also looking into buying a 8-10 cubic foot freezer to put down there. A new model is more energy efficient than used. Manual defrost makes food last much longer, but requires an annual defrosting effort. Also saw plans to convert a freezer to a high-efficiency chest fridge, but I think I want to try that with a used freezer first, in case it burns out the compressor.

Library: DH is catching on to my new range of interests. For our 11th anniversary on Monday, DH got me a book. How to Survive Anywhere: A Guide for Urban, Suburban, Rural, and Wilderness Environments, by Christopher Nyerges. I flipped through it and already learned about magnesium fire starters, which I will add to our list for bug-out bags.


Verde said...

Ohhh great post. Love the cabinet and that sink will have lots of uses.

Interesting about the economy. That's a lot of poverty. Better to start talking to neighbors people now.

I know that my next learning is going to be about cellering too. I have the book but havn't sat down with it yet.

Matriarchy said...

We were not sure we would be staying in this house this winter, but it looks like we will, now. So I rushed to plant some fall veg, and I was planning to go talk to some neighbor women and see if they want to form a "Mutual Support Club."

MARIE said...

You inspire to do better!

LisaZ said...

My small city in Minnesota also just came out with the news that we have the most in poverty in cities in the state--in our case 25%. For a family of four that's making $21k or less per year. That would be hard to live on here! And 25% are doing it. You have to be awfully good with money to make it on that--and willing to live in very tight quarters.

I like your new cabinet. And I love that my kids aren't the only ones who can come up with some snarky but funny comments like your daughter did! Love the sink, too.

You are continually amazing me with all you do, Matriarchy. Keep us posted on what you're getting out of Sharon's class.

Lisa in MN

Matriarchy said...

You know, it's so easy to feel like you are *never* doing enough. No matter what I get done, I tend to focus on the long list of what I did NOT do. So, it feels really good to hear you guys say I look like I am doing a lot. Thanks you!

The blogging has really been a motivator for me. It helps me finish what I start, so I can take a photo for the blog!

Lisa, I'm going to do a whole post about Sharon's class when it's done. It has been a really important thinking & planning exercise for us.